UPDATE 10/12/17: Death toll climbs to 31 as grim search continues. 2,834 homes were destroyed in Santa Rosa alone. Milder winds are helping firefighters to make some progress today.
South Pasadena Fire Department has deployed one engine and four firefighters led by Captain Saxon to assist with the fires ravaging the Napa Valley. The same engine was assisting on the Anaheim fire yesterday and once they were demobilized from duty there, they were sent directly to Napa.
After the fire broke out Monday in the Anaheim Hills, a request for strike teams went out and SPFD responded as part of a team consisting of five engine companies including Monterey Hills, Alhambra and San Gabriel. SPFD is part of Area C, consisting of 13 agencies dispatched through Verdugo, including Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, Arcadia, and down through Montebello which rotate strike team requests. South Pasadena was mobilized Monday afternoon with four other engines to the Anaheim fire where they fought the blaze through Wednesday morning when they were released as the fire began to settle down.
Fire Chief Paul Riddle tells us, “Napa is now exploding; the state of California is under a state of emergency and the request came in for the strike teams being demobilized from Anaheim to go immediate need up to Napa.” He says the Anaheim fire is to the point where the winds have settled down and they were able to release some of the over 1000 firefighters that were fighting that fire. “Once we went available with our strike team, with Northern California making the request, we went directly up there,” explains Chief Riddle, “we make contact with the Captain to make sure everyone is mentally and physically able to go, that their families are okay because it will be at least a ten day deployment up there.”
The Chief went on to explain that when a large fire like this breaks out, an overhead team is immediately established. That team has everything from an Incident Commander, several safety officers, logistics people that set up a base camp. The base camp will be where they eat, sleep, get fuel and supplies. Riddle says, “it’s really like we’ve taken a page out of what they do when they mobilize in the military. They know they’re mobilizing a lot of equipment and they need all these resources to come in to support their efforts.” When asked where they sleep, he replies, “they carry sleeping bags on the rig and worst case scenario they’re on the ground, they’re working twelve hours on, twelve hours off for probably ten days. Most operational periods are twelve hours, sometimes longer. I suspect they will be working more than twelve hours based on what we’ve seen and how understaffed they are right now.”
The strike team leader oversees the five engine companies and each engine company has a captain. They have a span of control, one to five, wherein a supervisor is never supervising more than five people. The Captain on the engine is supervising his four people, the strike team leader is supervising the five engine companies, a division supervisor is in charge of five strike teams and at each level they are in constant communication with their captains and firefighters to make sure they have everything they need, report any injuries, verify that everything is okay at home with the objective being that everyone is focused on the job at hand.
Chief Riddle says, “we support them back here while they’re up there. This is what we train for, this is what they are prepared to do. To pull them off the rig would be extremely difficult because they want to go.”
The Napa fire is currently at zero containment. There are currently six fires burning in the Napa Valley including the Atlas Fire, Tubbs Fire, Nuns Fire, Adobe, Norbom, Pressley and Partrick fires. Thousands of acres have been ravaged with 23 reported dead and hundreds more missing. Over 3500 homes and businesses have been destroyed with that number expected to rise. Blustery and shifting winds have created an unprecedented fire event and the conditions are expected to continue into Thursday.
The Canyon 2 fire in Anaheim Hills burned over 9,000 acres, destroyed or damaged about 30 structures and injured one person. All evacuation orders have been lifted and the fire is at 60% containment.
Here is how you can help those dealing with the fires, and ways you can get help if you’re in need.
If you live in Northern California, you can volunteer and donate aid through this Facebook page.
The American Red Cross is seeking volunteers to assist evacuees.
Facebook has also activated a safety check-in page.
Airbnb hosts are offering free rooms to displaced neighbors and relief workers from October 8 to October 30.
Influence Church in Anaheim Hills is providing food and shelter.
San Francisco store Love on Haight is giving away free clothes.
Wine County Animal Lovers is offering pet supplies to help evacuees keep their animals with them.